Suddenly it hits you, like a cultural cramp, a fashion fit, a gastronomic gut-wrench! Yes, you’re having a ‘spoilt-for-choice’ anxiety attack, the kind induced by trying to squeeze the most out of Australia’s most liveable city in 24 hours!
Faced with a dizzying array of choice from haute cuisine to haute couture, every decision on where to sleep, eat, shop and meander is crucial! Here’s our best-of-the-best hit list to give you the ultimate Melbourne edit.
With only 24 hours up your sleeve, hotel location is not only critical, but will also frame the type of experience you have. While Melbourne’s art scene is world-class and arguably the best in Australia, 24 hours doesn’t lend itself to whiling away hours in galleries and museums, so why not give your stay an artistic edge and kill two birds? Fortunately, if there’s one city outside of New York where you might expect to find an art inspired boutique hotel, it’s Melbourne.
The Cullen was the first in the cultural capital’s ‘Art Series’ hotels, each one themed around the works of individual artists. This one is designed around the late 2000 Archibald prize winner, Adam Cullen, and the hotel houses around 450 pieces of his art forming a virtual art gallery of his work.
The contemporary, bright and open-plan suites are well-equipped with large plasma TVs, queen beds, sitting area, mini-kitchenettes, and, like everywhere else in the hotel, the rooms are adorned with abstract designs and Cullen’s distinctive artwork.
Tasteful quirks are rife at The Cullen from the modernist cow statue in the hotel foyer to the Do Not Disturb signs which humorously read, “Back off or I’ll Bite,” while the reverse asks self-effacingly, “Please Clean up my Mess.”
Along with Archibald-winning art, The Cullen offers thoughtful modern perks such as Cullen-designed Smart Cars, vintage inspired Lekker bicycles and electric scooters all for hire. Complimentary perks include iPods preset with playlists for any mood, Bugaboo Bee 3 pram hire as well as a small but well-equipped fitness center.
Also on site are two deliciously different dining options including the Gramercy Bar & Bistro and Hu Tong Dumpling bar.
Before you hit the bars and shops of Melbourne’s ultra-fashionable Prahran hood, be sure to stop by and be blown away by Maison Tsumiki – the Japanese concept hair salon complete with Shu Uemura specialists conveniently located in the hotel lobby.
We booked with the hotel experts Hotels.com and found great rates on the Hotels.com Mobile App (using our mobile we saved 10%), check it out here
In the P’ran Hood:
Local Prahran institution The Smith is a must. Situated up the shabby-chic Windsor end of Chapel Street, this trendy pub-come-gastronomic delight boasts head chef Michael Lambie of Taxi and Circa fame. The Smith is super stylish, but in an accessible and elegantly relaxed kind of way. No flashy attitudes here, crowds are smart but casual. And ladies, if you happen to be on a girls’ night out The Smith is held in high esteem for spying a spunk in a suit on a Friday night! While spaces have been designed for lounging about, lingering over tastes and sips or privately entertaining a crowd – our favourite spot is right at the long marble bar watching the highly-trained (and bearded – of course) bar staff work their cocktail mixing magic. It’s the perfect place to peruse the crowd over a selection of small plates, tasty pickings and palette pleasing tipples.
In the CBD:
No visit to Melbourne is complete without a late night meal at busy city diner, Chin Chin. Restaurateur Chris Lucas (Kong, Baby and the more recent Hawker Hall) steers clear of formality and uptight dining with this informal yet stylish Bangkok-breed dining hall. With an emphasis on shared plates and come-anytime flexibility you can get adventurous with your flavours until the wee hours of the morning. Be sure to pop downstairs to GoGo bar located in Chin Chin’s basement which gives you fast access to Melbourne’s bustling, vibrant bar scene without wasting precious time wandering the streets. Chin Chin and GoGo are a dynamic duo for a fast and furious Melbourne visit.
Alternatively, just a little further down Flinders Lane with its red-neon entry (on a small laneway of course), sits a basement beauty called Lucy Liu. With a mixture of booth seating for groups, intimate spaces for more romantic encounters and an uber funky basement fit-out typical of below street level Melbourne eateries and bars, Lucy’s takes reservations and walk-ins and has a cute but well-stocked bar with plenty of seating for any table waiting that might occur. Standout dishes are yellow fin tuna tataki with wasabi ginger dressing and sesame crackers and wagyu-beef with horseradish cream and yakinuku dipping sauce. You’ll want to lick your fingers at Lucy Liu’s and it’s unpretentious enough that you can!
If ceviche and Pisco sours sounds like the perfect combinado then this picanteria up the Paris end of town will take you back to Lima! Harley House occupies a heritage listed basement on Collins Street and a modern Peruvian menu combines atmospherically with luxuriously appointed leather booths and an impressive collection of portrait artist (and husband of Asher Keddie) Vincent Fanauzzo’s works adorning the white-tiled walls. Chef Daniel Salcedo’s food is as mouth-watering as the cocktails are uniquely tasty. Perfect for small or large friend catch-ups when on a fleeting visit to Melbourne and, unlike many bars in the CBD, you can reserve an area. Just chat to oh-so-friendly hostess Amanda, who is more than accommodating when it comes to looking after your booking and following through with impeccable and personal service to make sure those Pisco Sours are always flowing!
When you don’t have the luxury of time to meander around Melbourne’s laneways and main shopping strips like Chapel Street – a few key boutique recommendations are in order for selective, yet key purchases. No trip to Melbourne is complete without returning home with a new wardrobe addition. Let’s break it down…
Green With Envy, 517 Chapel St, South Yarra VIC 3141
Best for basics:
Bassike, 617 Malvern Rd, Hawksburn VIC 3142
Best luxe labels:
Marais, 314 Little Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Cose Ipanema, 113 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Belinda, 584 Malvern Rd, Prahran VIC 3181
Alpha 60, 201 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
Best shopping centre:
Emporium, 287 Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000
The Strand Melbourne, Located on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Little Bourke Street Melbourne
Chadstone, 1341 Dandenong Rd, Chadstone VIC 3148
Best for shoes:
Zomp, 277 Flinders Ln, Melbourne VIC 3000
David Jones, 310 Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Sneakerboy, 1/265 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
Cos, The Strand, 240 Elizabeth St, Melbourne VIC 3000
H&M, Melbourne GPO, 350 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Uniqglo (CBD), 321 Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Best for Him:
Harrolds, 101 Collins St, Melbourne, VIC 3000